Julie C. Casper
Introduction to Art- Music and Literature
August 30, 2009
“The Harlem Renaissance – proclaimed in a collection of prophetic black tracts and manifestos, and distinguished by the iconic bodies and voices of Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker and others – was a cultural and psychological watershed, an era in which black people were perceived as having finally liberated themselves from a past fraught with self-doubt and surrendered instead to an unprecedented optimism, a novel pride in all things black and a cultural confidence that stretched beyond the borders of Harlem to other black communities in the Western world” (“Harlem Renaissance”, n.d., p.1).
The Harlem Renaissance, also known as the New Negro Movement, paved the road to success for many African Americans and immigrants from the West Indies during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Beginning with Blues Gospel in 1920, Stride Piano in 1925 and Hot Jazz in 1930; The New Negro Movement was a cultural, literary, artistic and intellectual movement for the fight towards equal rights for African Americans. The cultural barrier that separated blacks and whites during this era was metaphorically like the Great Wall of China; however this renaissance was the beginning of the chipping away of this metaphoric wall as African Americans began to fight for their civil rights in the art and entertainment industry, as well as for educational opportunity.
This renaissance was a historical revolution for not only music and dance, but for art, literature, drama, movies, sculpture and protests. Its inspiration created associations, institutions, companies and programs to promote educational and economic opportunities for African Americans who were faced with living in a very discriminative world. It was a long cultural road to travel, with many cultural bumps along the way, but the Harlem Renaissance was an epiphany that would prove to be a change for the better for not only African Americans, but for immigrants from the West Indies who were in search for prosperous lives. “The Harlem Renaissance was a marker of the shift of the Black intellectuals from the South to the urban North” (“Harlem Ren.”, 2001, p.2).
The formation of the Harlem Renaissance began in Harlem, New York, by attracting blacks from the southern United States as well as immigrants from the West Indies. Thousands of African Americans began to colonize in this small poverty stricken suburb in New York, carrying with them dreams of receiving equal education and opportunities to be economically set.
The onset of the Harlem Renaissance began in 1919 with the 369th Regiment march up Fifth Avenue on February 17 along with race riots, the organization of the first Pan African Congress and the founding of the Black Star Shipping Line. Then in the 1920’s various black authors, actors, politicians, philosophers, and editors were gaining fame with their various and talented works in cultural arts. The African Orthodox Church was founded in 1921 by Marcus Garvey, the first serious Broadway play The Chip Woman’s Fortune was written by Willis Richardson in 1923. In 1927, the Harlem Globetrotter’s were established and In Abraham’s Bosom by Paul Green won the Pulitzer Prize with its all-black cast, and in 1929 the Negro Experimental Theatre was founded. Throughout the 1930’s there was an outpouring of publications released from various black authors such as Jessie Fauset, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Willis Richardson and May Sullivan. The highlight of the 1930’s was that the infamous Apollo Theatre officially opened to black audiences in 1934. The Harlem Renaissance was a rebirth of educational opportunities for African Americans, during the 1920’s and 1930’s, and thus was the driving point for the fury of people that populated Harlem. “Harlem, New York set the stage for flagrant discrimination in